For many artists, the first real piece they ever finished stays with them. It defines them, shapes their future, and inspires them to keep going. Mariano De Luca, a director of photography from Argentina, knows this. He worked on his first film over ten years ago, and it still remains one of the most powerful projects in his career.
The documentary feature Nazi Gold in Argentina reveals a lot of hidden information about the lost gold in Germany after the second world war, and the connections between the Nazi leaders and the Argentine Government of that time.
“Having worked in this film was pretty important for me. It was my first feature film. I was working with so much talented people. It was a great experience full of passion and talent. And besides all that, it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the history of my country and the government at the time,” said De Luca.
The idea was to give the documentary a feeling like an espionage movie with agents spying on other agents. Hundreds of Nazis came to Argentina after the war due to a policy from Juan Domingo Peron, the president at that time. But the connections between Nazis and elite politics prevailed after Peron. The film was directed by the late Rolo Pereyra, a reknown director/writer/producer, and was first Argentine nominated to receive an Emmy. Pereyra taught De Luca in school, and knew his style was necessary to make Nazi Gold in Argentina a success. Due to a heart condition, Pereyra passed away before the theatrical release and did not get to see the success that his film received.
“Working on this film was such a great experience. I learned so much. It was different from the other projects I have worked on, because it was full of information and historic content from my own country. The story is based on real facts and those facts really happened, so you learn about the past and discover a whole new meaning for a lot of things that maybe you already know, but you now know in a different light. You find yourself being part of the investigation, like another one of the investigators.”
The film premiered at the Gaumont, a reknowned theatre in Buenos Aires. It went on to win the Silver Condor for Best Documentary at the Argentinean Critics Award, and was nominated for Best Screenplay/Documentary at the same awards.
“Sometimes, we were only five or six people on the crew, and Mariano made that to work perfectly. He tried to made everything possible. Simplifying things, finding the best way to tell the story and not being limited by the small crew,” said Daniel Botti, the producer. “His collaboration on this project was vital to recreate the look that the director and production designer wanted. The film got the look and feel they wanted, and that shows on the screen.”
De Luca describes working with the people he did on this project was important to his experience. He was working with veterans when he was newer to the industry, which shaped his career.
“Oscar Carballo, the production designer, was a really inspiration to me. Hearing him talking about art and film craft was a blessing. And Daniel really shared all his experience on this film, he was ‘the’ man when we had to overcome the troubles on our Europe trip.”
They travelled around the world to shoot in the film. They went from Buenos Aires, Bariloche, Puerto Madryn and Cordoba City in Argentina to Madrid, Rome, Zurich, Geneva, Berlin, Hamburg and Laboe.
De Luca was in charge of prepping and making the equipment list for the whole feature film. He started with only interviews and some b-roll before it became a feature film. De Luca also worked with a change in technology. At the time, the industry was transferring to HD cameras, and he was shooting with first HD cameras available in the country at that time. The feature film added action and drama sequences to the documentary/interview footage, so he also had to shoot stunts and effects shots for the feature.
“It was an incredible experience working on Nazi Gold in Argentina. I was the youngest, and being able to share the shooting with such experience and talented people was a blessing,” he concluded. “I had the opportunity to work with friends and that made the shoot a lot easier. Lots of laughs and good moments.”